Less bang for the buck!

Published 11:11 am Tuesday, July 12, 2016

It appears that those we elected to the Northampton County Board of Education are leaning “west” – and doing so in a decisive manner.

If you have been reading the front page of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald over the recent weeks, you’ll know that the Northampton Board of Ed has opted to close the campus of the high school located near Creeksville and re-christen the old campus of Northampton County High School-West (which formerly served as Gaston Middle School) as Northampton High School.

This has been a topic of discussion for several years by the county’s school board (former and current members) as well as Northampton citizens. Those living in the western half of the county never cared much for having to bus their high-school age students across the county to Creeksville. I can understand their frustration, especially those living west of Gaston in Henrico, Vultare and the Lake Gaston area.

Now the shoe is on the other foot as high school age students from the far eastern areas of Northampton – Rich Square, Woodland, Conway, Severn – will have to make the long trip west.

I can’t help but wonder if this decision had anything to do with the county voters overwhelming defeating a referendum this past March where the school system wanted $30-plus million to build a combined middle school / high school in Jackson?

I can’t help but wonder if this decision had anything to do with the fact that there were over 700 names on a petition asking the school board not to close the high school campus in Creeksville?

Over the years, the Northampton Board of Education has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in contracts with firms performing feasibility studies on the condition of the public schools in the county.

At one time in 2013, the school board opted to have one high school, but it would use two campuses: one in Gaston and the other in Creeksville. That plan was later nixed and replaced with keeping the Creeksville campus open for students from all across the county. That came with a hefty price tag – a bill once again footed by the county taxpayers.

Now there’s this newest plan – a high school only in Gaston. What will that cost be to the taxpayers, especially considering transportation as it’s a known fact that the majority of the high-school age children in the county live east of Jackson.

And, to add more fuel to the transportation effort, if the football field in Gaston is unusable and the practices and home games for the 2016 season are held on the Creeksville campus, have those costs been figured into the equation?

A few months ago, the Northampton School Board approved “Option 4” of its Way Forward Plan (that included moving the high school students to Gaston), which came with a $1.4 million price tag. At that time, the county commissioners refused to fund it, but yet in the new 2016-17 fiscal year budget, the county schools received an $800,000 increase in taxpayer money from the previous year. Add that to the 600,000 additional dollars the school system received from the county in a mediation deal last year and my Northampton High School education allows me to count all the way to $1.4 million.

And, for an added bonus, the Northampton School Board gave themselves a $200 (per member, per month) raise to boot. Now at $600 per month, members of the Northampton BOE rank second in the RC area for salaries – trailing only Hertford County ($700 per month). Bertie’s board members collect $500 per month while the Gates BOE pocket $200.

And what kind of bang for the buck do the Northampton taxpayers receive for our millions of taxpayer dollars that go to the public school system? Our dollars pay for a system that ranks #183 out of 192 school districts across the state in regards to student academic performance. And, by the way, that #183 ranking (for the most current year that test scores were available – 2014-15) was 16 spots lower than 2013-14.

Just think what the Northampton School Board could do with even more money. Maybe we could reach rock bottom….fueled, of course, by additional money from taxpayers and more bad decisions in Jackson.


Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal